the first birth

When I say “first birth” I mean excluding mine.

This morning, I had Plans. With a capital P. My birth-photographer-turned-friend-turned-photography-mentor Sarah had a mama scheduled for a c-section, providing the baby remained breech, and I was invited. I wouldn’t get to see the actual birth, of course—Sarah had never even been in this hospital’s OR. The parents had a pretty solid arrangement for her to be inside for the birth, but my plan was to gain experience pre- and post-op, catching details of the waiting and the triumphant exodus from the ER. I was pretty stoked. It was generous of Sarah to offer to let me tag along, generous of the mama to invite me. I was just happy I’d get to be there.

But instead, I’m in Starbucks like I am every Wednesday morning, getting some words out before I need to be someplace at eight.

Toward the end of last week, I got up early for an appointment. I didn’t really want to leave my warm bed for my cold room, so I grabbed my phone (duh) and checked for notifications… I had a text from Sarah from ten minutes ago. “Good morning… [the mama’s] water broke, so she’s getting ready to head into the OR (she said in about an hour or so—we’ll see if I can make it) SO. No pressure.” Well, that will get me out of bed…

I threw myself together, almost forgot my camera (battery at a whopping 40%), flew out the door. I called to excuse myself from PT saying, “A client went into birth” (what?!?) and forgot where the entrance to post was, driving the long way around town to get to the main gate for the pass I was already planning to get that day “in case” she ended up going into labor early.

Sarah and I ended up at the Visitor’s Center for passes at the same time (she also had “get weeklong pass” penciled on her to-do list that morning), so I just followed her to the hospital, not trusting myself to BS my way to the right place. Look at me with my Very Legit Camera. I definitely know what I’m doing. Please tell me where the laboring mama is getting prepped for surgery. OF COURSE I know her last name—my friend texted it to me this morning. She’s going “into birth.” Eye roll. But Sarah’s getting close 70 births, so she knows her way around and isn’t flustered by any of it and I was glad we arrived at the same time.

We hung out in the mama’s hospital room with her husband, parents, and parts of her birth team. I shot a few pictures while trying to stay out of the way and wrap my head around this is really happening. Someone came in and passed out paper coveralls and masks and hairnets and booties for those who would be in the OR. Sarah and the grandma-to-be suited up, and we were on our way. I followed everyone through the labyrinth toward the operating room. Sarah, Grandma, and I waited outside, they in their bunny suits and me in my street clothes, while Mama was in getting an epidural and otherwise being prepped.

A number of staff walked by, saw two bunny suits and me, and verified: yes, these two are going into the OR. Yes, I am staying in the hall. But then the OB came to me, grabbed a suit and mask off the cart, and handed it to me. I started to stammer out something about me not going in and she looked in my shocked, enormous eyes and said, “Yes, really.” I didn’t fight it.

And that is the story of how I ended up in a very crowded OR shooting my first birth, which happened to be a twin cesarean.

Oh, I didn’t mention there were two? There were two.

I spent the whole time grinning stupidly and exchanging “is this for real?!?” looks with Sarah and shooting furiously and muttering incoherent half-prayers from behind the mask I put on upside-down. “Jesus, what?!? I can’t even… how is this… THANK YOU!!!”

I’m glad I watched a few c-sections on YouTube (you can find all kinds of stuff on YouTube) so I went in knowing I was unlikely to pass out. The only part that made me a little squirmy was actually the same thing that makes me nervous about non-surgical birth—the tiny slit they cut stretched to an alarming size to accommodate the removal of actual humans.

All in all, incredible. I got closer to crying that morning than I did at any of my own births, honestly. I don’t even really have any more words for it. I’m still a bit buzzed from the oxytocin, days and days later.

It feels like generosity and grace were rained down like so much candy at a parade, and all I could do was gather it up and shove it in my pockets until it was spilling out.

I’ve had to check myself constantly to avoid verbally assaulting every stranger I meet: I got to shoot a twin c-section from inside the OR! In other words, Here! Have some candy! I can’t even hold it all, let me throw some at you! But that’s hardly appropriate, so I’ve tried to keep it tamped down, limited to people who I know actually like this kind of candy.

But now I’m tossing it at you, because I’m still just brimming with it.

This kind of grace only comes from one Place. Would He still be good if I didn’t get into the OR? Obviously. And I was excited about that. But the confluence of factors that morning made it really obvious: this was a gift, like the kind I occasionally get to surprise my children with: the kind I never imagined to ask for.

That’s all my words. Have a few of my favorite images from that morning. That I took myself.

barf days (Kindred Mom post)

Hey, all! It’s another Kindred Mom day! You can click over there to read the whole thing or keep reading for part of it.

As I rocked my toddler before bed, the thought came from nowhere: “You know, we haven’t had a stomach bug in a while…”

On its heels: “CRAP. That’s always what I think right before we get one.”

Like clockwork, the barfing begins the next morning (well, middle of the night). I almost laugh at my magical fortune-telling superpowers, but I can barely manage to run back and forth between the preschooler in the tub and the bedding. Good Lord, the bedding. What did she eat?!? I don’t remember having anything like that for dinner. And it’s all down the walls and the sides of the mattress and…

Sanitize cycle. We just, for the first time in fifteen years of marriage, got a brand-new washer and dryer. And it has an “oxi-sanitize” cycle in which I add Oxi-clean powder and some puke-laden towels, and it runs for two and a half hours and magically kills whatever caused my kid to expel the contents of her stomach. 

I marvel at the timing, thankful (maybe more thankful than the situation warrants) that the bug waited until the week after the new washer and dryer were installed. 

The next morning finds me still cleaning. My sorta-smart watch says I got three hours of sleep divided among five different stretches. I’m passing out Gladware™ square bowls that we use for this (and also for leftovers). The count is now three kids down, Daddy in bed dying (I don’t begrudge him this—I’m a bigger nausea/vomiting weenie than he is), one kid still apparently fine, and me. 

I feel mildly queasy, and I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been thinking about vomit all day (and have cleaned it out of my bra once already) or because I’m the next victim

(Read the rest on the Kindred Mom blog!)

five for friday, vol. 6

Hey, all! This week has been bananas and very paint-speckled.

kid quote:

I’m NOT a BABY! I’m MAD!

~Miss Lilly Mae


Holy Envy by Barbara Brown Taylor. I want to use all the disclaimers here, because I have All The Thoughts about this book, and I don’t want you to read it unfiltered. But instead, I’ll just tell you… I so love all her questions, even if I disagree with a great many of her answers.

…when my religion tries to come between me and my neighbor, I will choose my neighbor. That self-canceling feature of my religion is one of the things I like best about it. Jesus never commanded me to love my religion.

Barbara Brown Taylor, Holy Envy p. 208


I recommend you don’t start a big kitchen renovation with zero forethought and no concern for the calendar. Otherwise you might end up hosting several nights during a week your kitchen is all torn to pieces.

moment of happiness:

Yesterday was Brian’s birthday. It was a day full of mostly paint and primer and Katherine keeping tabs on the little two so I could handle the kitchen. For the birthday boy, this meant a day of being bossed around by his big sister. Complaints? Zero. I mean, all the regular whining, but there was no “but it’s my birthday!!!” At the end of the day (at about 10pm, we got home from Community Group and as everyone was running around getting ready for bed, I gave him the present I’d meant to give him this morning and then this evening before we left. It was still in the Amazon box: a 24-inch stuffed Toothless from How to Train your Dragon. He has one friend and one cousin with similar buddies and he adores them. As he pulled it out of the box, his eyes got wide and his voice got squeaky. He was talking to it and hugging and kissing it and thanking me and SO HAPPY. Was this an ideal way to do the only birthday gift he got on his actual day? Not really. I considered grabbing donuts the day before and letting him have a candled donut for breakfast and giving him the (wrapped) gift then, but… I forgot. Oh well. It didn’t seem to diminish his joy one iota.

bit of nature:

a little boy turns five

Hi, Mr. Brian!

You’ve been really hard to parent this year! There are all kinds of behaviors that alarm and baffle me.

But more than that, you are delightful.

Even when you’re in trouble, there’s a sweetness in you and between us that makes me worry a lot less. You’re so generally full of joy and fun. You get excited about the funniest things, and any time they come up, your voice gets really high and excited and your eyes get really big, like you cannot possibly believe your good fortune that we even get to discuss it.

You’re over the moon about the pickle relish that we can put on Costco hot dogs. “Hey, Mom! Can we go to Costco and get a hot dog… with sweet relish?” (Those last two words double in volume and go up an octave.) What even is this, son? How do you get immeasurable joy from the idea that you might get two tablespoons of sweet relish on a Costco hot dog? I can do nothing but grin back in delight while my brain spins to see if this is something we can realistically do, because I love your enthusiasm and it makes me happy just to bask in it.

I went to a thrift store now fully two years ago and got you two fleece jammie sets. One has a monkey with a guitar on it, the other has a reindeer that looks like a moose which you decided is “a Moose named Shome” because when we went out to camp for a picnic a couple years ago, you got to ride a horse named Storm but you insisted it was a moose and you weren’t speaking really clearly, so now you have a reindeer named A Moose Named Shome on your jammies. Both sets have plaid pants. I think I spent $7 on the two sets.

You still thank me probably weekly for those jammies. They’re now fully two sizes too small, but every time you wear them or come upon them in your drawer, you look at me with a huge grin and all the sincerity and say, “Mom, thanks for buying me my jammies. I really love them.”

When we go out to the driveway, frequently you look over and tell Daddy, “Hey Dad? I really like your truck. It’s nice.”

Basically, you point out and name out loud and give thanks for everything you come across that sparks any joy and everything does. I hope you keep this. I hope the whole world is a delight to you forever and you share the delight with everyone around you for your entire life.

Bud, you’re growing up just as you should. We can deal with the befuddling parts of parenting. The joy of getting to live with you is more than worth it.

All photos are taken by Sarah Lewis.

five for friday, volume five

Hey! I made it through 31 days of speaking the truth! That was… a lot of content. And I’m tired and ready for some not-producing, but I started doing this “five for friday” thing, and they’re easy, so I figured I’d keep going.

kid quote

K was being silly, talking about carving the front of our house into a giant jack-o-lantern.
And then she promptly started trying to sing Taylor Swift’s “Twenty-Two,” which, for Lilly, is just the word “twenty-two” sung long and tunelessly.

Bonus kid quote:
We were in the car and the big two were Very Seriously trying to organize themselves to be Taylor Swift and her backup singers. Once they sorted out who was singing what and when, they burst out in song: “It feels like a perfect night/to dress up like hamsters/fall in love with our exes…” Over and over. I tried so hard not to let them hear me laugh and also not to get into a wreck.


I finished Dracula for book club while painting (audiobook via Librivox). This was a book I specifically intended never to read because ew. Vampires. But this year’s book club theme is classic horror/mystery and Dracula was the book we chose for this month’s discussion, so I gamely picked it up.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. Part of it is the audiobook format—it allows me to do funny things with my attention. Sometimes I was totally absorbed, almost meditative, as I mindlessly painted. But when parts were yucky or scary, I could sort of shift to give more attention to my task and less to the details. This sort of customized attention level gave me a chance to enjoy the (really, very good) story while not taking the overwhelming parts in too deeply.


Y’all, I’ve been wearing these hair clips for a year and I really, really like them. It feels a little self-serving to recommend them, because I signed up as a consultant (demonstrator? I have no idea… Oh, stylist) because I love them and they’re expensive and I wanted to get them at a discount. (I do this periodically. For instance, Younique makeup. I hate selling MLM stuff, as evidenced by a brief, pre-kid Pampered Chef phase, but I often like buying it.) Anyway, I’m not actually trying to sell to you. I don’t care if you buy them from me or at all, but as I was wracking my brain for a good rec just now, that’s what came to my head. (Ha! See what I did there?)

moment of happiness

You guys. October is over. And, much as I loved the challenge of daily writing (and as much as I loved the satisfaction of actually posting 31—now 32—days in a row), it was a lot of effort to come up with daily content that had any semblance of meaning. Hitting publish on day 31 was a good moment.

bit of nature

I went out yesterday after Classical Conversations to get a good nature photo, knowing this post was coming. A little bit of snow came the other day (so this was not the first Halloween without snow since 1938—the streak continues) and the sun was low and lovely (because noon is still golden hour in Fairbanks for the next 4ish months) and… all that to say, I could hold on to these for future Fridays, but it was too pretty not to share.

the candy plan

A couple years ago, I let my kids eat their halloween candy for dinner. At the time, I was at the tail end of another 31-day series called Grace in Failure and decided allowing my kids to eat candy for dinner was a fail.

It does feel like a poor parenting choice, but I’m making it again this year.

Over the summer, we went to a birthday party at the park. One of my children came up to me with a half-eaten bowl of cake, saying, “Mom, what do I do with this? It’s too much sugar and I feel weird.”

Let me just insert right now that this kind of awareness is everything I have ever wanted for myself. Over the last several years, I’ve gotten better and more intuitive about eating things that make my body feel good, but sugar is a constant stumbling block. I can avoid it, knowing I’ll feel gross later, but if I start, I’m almost never able to moderate, even when I feel icky from those Oreos I’m eating. I hear their siren call, but after I’ve had one, it’s more like a taunt than a beckoning which makes me angry and I won’t stop until they’re vanquished. DIE, OREOS! I AM MORE POWERFUL THAN YOUR CHOCOLATEY CRISPNESS. I’LL SHOW YOU! I EAT YOUR KIND FOR LITERAL BREAKFAST! AHA! NOT SO POWERFUL NOW THAT YOU’RE GONE!


So when my kids moderate their own sugar intake, I’m in awe.

I didn’t connect the two initially, but then I saw this NYT article about it and read this:

“We have really good empirical research dating back to the 1980s demonstrating that kids who are restricted around treat foods often just want to eat them more,” said Charlotte Markey, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Rutgers University and author of the forthcoming “Body Image Book for Girls,” referring to the research of Leann Birch, a developmental psychologist who showed through many studies that pressuring children to eat healthier fare in order to “earn” their treats caused kids to like vegetables less and have a stronger craving for candy.

Oh. Duh. I knew that, both scientifically and from my own experience. Not that there’s never a call for my help regulating their impulses—that’s probably 80% of my job—but giving them chances to self-regulate (and fail, and experience consequences) is an important part of teaching them to be successful humans.

I’m not handing myself any parenting trophies—I don’t think 2017’s whine-avoidance halloween tactic is solely responsible for their ability to self-moderate sugar. But it worked (the goal was to mitigate the constant “can I have some of my halloween candy” begging that happens for weeks if it’s in the house), and it didn’t set me back any in my goal to teach them intuitive eating.

Highly recommend.

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This post is part of my series, 31 days of speaking the truth. You can find the whole list of them here on the first post of the series.

renewing the mind

“You have memories on this day!”

I’d meant to get Timehop, but never really got around to it, then Facebook started doing it for me and every day I’m delighted by antics of my children’s younger selves and embarrassed by the drivel produced by the 2008 version of me, back when statuses were generally in third person and “is really tired” was mine. (Side rant, this is not where I talk about how 25-year-old me was kidless and thus did not understand “really tired.” That girl worked hard and slept very little.)

On this particular morning, Facebook also reminded me of this post I’d shared a couple years ago. From that one time my kid treated me like a servant in the middle of the night and I got all bent out of shape. (I’ve seen it attributed to various people, but “The way to know whether you have a servant’s heart is how you react when you’re treated like one” or some version of it applies here… My heart was not where it needed to be.)

Usually, I just skip past my blog posts. I wrote them, after all—it seems a little vain to read them again. This time, I clicked.

I may have written those words, but I needed to read them again, because they’re far from internalized.

I’m often not quite sure what to do about how much earlier versions of myself have to offer me now (2008 “really tired” Robin excepted). It’s frustrating to me that I need to learn these lessons so thoroughly… over and over again. Have I made no progress???

The verse that comes to mind now is Romans 12:2-

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

The tiniest bit of research reveals that the word for “transformed” is in the present imperative second-person plural form, so it’s something we are all to be doing. I would like my mind to be renewed once and stay that way. But the same research says “renewing” can also be translated “renovating” which hits home this week. (The kitchen part of my home, to be specific.) Renovation isn’t a one-and-done kind of thing, apparently.

When I made my well-thought-out trip to Lowe’s last Friday night, I spent about fifteen seconds picking a cabinet color (“Morning Fog,” which is the best possible kitchen color name) and less than that making a possibly foolish choice. “Tell you what, girls. If you can agree, you can pick any color you want for the insides of the lower cabinets.” Robust Pink could also be called Pepto Bismol pink, but they picked it.

My cabinets are dark brown. They have been dark brown since the year my parents were married, which happens to be the year the house was built. It complements the bright orange countertops and orange-and-harvest-gold linoleum perfectly. But dark brown was not chosen with repainting in mind. I threw on one coat of Robust Pink after another on Saturday. And, yes, it was frustrating to keep seeing shadows of the almost-black peeking through all that 5-symptom relief Pepto Bismol.

But was the second coat a waste of time? The third? (I’ve since discovered primer, by the way. Life-changing.) Obviously no. Without the second and third coats, the first would have been a waste of time. Worse, actually, because crappily-painted pink-over-dark-brown is worse than the starting dark brown.

So as I keep learning and relearning the same lessons and being taught and convicted by my own words in years past, maybe it’s not a lack of progress. Yes, it’s frustrating to cover the same ground over and over. It’s work. I’d rather use primer (to stretch a metaphor to breaking). But as I haven’t stumbled upon Kilz: Heavy Duty Soul/Mind at Lowe’s, I’ll keep putting the layers down until everything is fully transformed. Made new.

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This post is part of my series, 31 days of speaking the truth. You can find the whole list of them here on the first post of the series.

The Birthplace of Hope (guest post at Joyful Life)

Hey, friends! Today I get to share over at Joyful Life Magazine’s blog! You can head over there to read the whole thing or read on for a teaser…

In the months before we all turned twenty-one, I watched my friend (now husband) lose his best friend to a cancer he’d battled for years. I observed all the ways my husband cared for his friend’s physical needs as he came to the end of life. I noticed how he attended to his friend’s family and young bride. And when our friend died, I saw that, though my husband grieved, he was not destroyed. I remember asking him why. In the years since, I’ve never forgotten his answer to me: “I decided early on that God is good.”

It’s easy to look around, see evil and sadness and pain, and doubt God’s goodness in this world. But when His goodness becomes bedrock, I’m able to start seeing it despite and even within that same evil, sadness, and pain. His goodness gives me reason to hope; if I know He has been good and is good, I can believe He will continue to be good, no matter how circumstances appear. Making His goodness non-negotiable in my own mind, filtering everything through the truth that ‘God is good,’ has changed my life. 

Our Good God

The God we serve is infinitely good. Christ said, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). We tend to think of His goodness and love as it relates to us, but those attributes aren’t limited to the tiny portion of eternity “after creation.” It’s who He IS, even before the foundation of the world.

While God’s goodness is preexistent, it’s also abundantly evident throughout human history, from the beginning of creation to the rescue and restoration that was promised. He created darkness and light, sun and moon, land and sea, plants, animals, and people, and declared them good (Genesis 1). Yet when our first parents sinned—tainting the goodness He created in us—He had a rescue plan, and it gave Adam and Eve hope for the restoration to come, even as He was sending them away from His presence in the garden (Genesis 3:15).

Read the rest at Joyful Life Magazine’s blog!

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This post is part of my series, 31 days of speaking the truth. You can find the whole list of them here on the first post of the series.

a new addiction?

I’ve started ignoring all the things. It’s not unlike when I’m at the end of a really good novel and I start neglecting housework and children and school and food, except this time it’s home improvement. How did I not realize this was a thing?!? I’ve always been so scared to do stuff like this because it’ll be a lot of work and a huge mess and I don’t know how and don’t have patience to research it (research is always Andrew’s angle) so I’ll probably screw it up anyway and why go to all the trouble?

But finally my kitchen annoyed me for enough years that I snapped and here we are.

When was the last time I was this consumed with something lasting? When my babies were born, I suppose.

I’ll have to ponder that. Probably while I’m putting the one-millionth coat of Pepto-Bismol pink paint on the inside of my lower cabinets. I let the girls choose the inside color. (Sigh… Dark brown cabinetry is hard to cover. I finally just got some primer this morning because I’m tired of three coats being not quite enough.)

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This post is part of my series, 31 days of speaking the truth. You can find the whole list of them here on the first post of the series.

newlywed fights

We got married on the 26th of June, the first year in my memory (and worst to date) that wildfire smoke completely obscured the valley where we live. It rolled in the 27th and stayed, as best I can remember, all summer.

The smell of wildfire smoke still makes me irrationally happy and nostalgic.

At any rate, while Andrew and I had a relatively smooth transition into marriage (owing, I think, to long friendship and a whole lot of grace), there were a couple things I remember losing my mind over that smoky summer.

My friend Gretchen shared a post her husband wrote for her blog for their 20th anniversary in which he mentioned a nuclear meltdown over a spice rack, which jostled loose a couple of long-forgotten fights in my brain.

We were wandering the neighborhood on a less-smoky day and talking about the logistics of combining lives. We started talking money, which was ordinarily no big deal. Weirdly, we’d managed our separate finances together for a few years before we got married, so combining yielded no big shocks. I mentioned closing my bank account, since all our checks came out of his now. He wanted to keep it open for reasons I don’t recall now—I imagine to have a separate account to dedicate for… I don’t know. Investment, maybe?

I freaked out.

Same summer, different evening. We both had cell phones (it was 2004, after all) and I asked when we were going to get a landline. He looked confused. “Why?”

I think I cried that time, too.

That winter (I think), the smoke had finally cleared, but now it was cold and dark. He and I went on a drive up Murphy Dome and were just chatting in the car. He talked about a tiny Toyota truck he was interested in buying. It was cheap, and would serve us well.

I dissolved into a blubbering puddle of incoherence.

My poor, darling husband.

He thought he knew what he was getting into when we married. We’d been friends so long, it seemed like he had probably seen all my crazy already. Little did he know.

My dismay over having multiple bank accounts came from a fear we weren’t really combining lives fully. The landline issue was the same. How is anybody supposed to call us if there’s only you and me? The truck was one step further: if he’s getting a vehicle that only seats two people comfortably, he must not want to have kids with me. (Oh, younger me… if only you knew then. Just wait a handful of years.)

The thing that kept exploding out of me suddenly, violently, and at the most random and unpredictable moments like a defective (extra terrifying) jack-in-the-box, was a very specific fear: he had, or soon would, figure out he got a lemon of a wife and the end of our still-new marriage was imminent. Obviously, he’s a catch and I’m crazy and sooner or later he’s going to realize it and want out and I wouldn’t even blame him but I don’t know what would happen to me.

I wouldn’t say the last 15 years have completely eradicated this fear, but it doesn’t pop up like it did that first year. I have a lot more respect for his stubbornness, for one. The man made a commitment, and he’s not going anywhere. I have a bit better view of the wife he chose, too. I’m totally crazy a lot of the time, but I like to think it’s mostly in endearing ways. (?)

More than anything, I have 15 years of tracing the grace of God doled out through our marriage. It’s not Andrew’s commitment or the endearing nature of my quirks that holds this thing together—this is the way He’s chosen to draw both of us closer to himself.

We did not, by the way, close my bank account. We did end up getting a landline. We didn’t use it except as the number associated with our Fred Meyer and Safeway rewards cards, so I still punch it into various grocery checkout keypads many times a month. We had a cute little answering machine, but nobody used that number—they just called our cells. We got rid of it a couple years later. I didn’t cry that time. He ended up getting not one but two little late-80s Toyota trucks. We still eventually ended up having children together. Like a million of them.

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This post is part of my series, 31 days of speaking the truth. You can find the whole list of them here on the first post of the series.